4 out of 4 stars
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The Sins of Soldiers by S J Hardman Lea tells the fictional tale of Anson Scott, an American journalist undercover as a British soldier during World War I. Anson’s mission is to understand and report on the daily life of British soldiers fighting on the Western Front; if caught, he could be tried and convicted as a traitorous spy, a designation that surely warrants the death penalty. Much to Anson’s surprise, he finds solace in his comrades as well as in the life of a soldier. Anson must decide what type of soldier he will be when his best friend’s life is threatened by Company Captain Tollman. The Sins of Soldiers is as much a tale of war as it is a tale love and loss and what makes us human.
Though the narrative is written through the point of view of Anson, this does not detract from the overall feeling of well-developed characters. The author expertly gives insight into the background of other characters through Anson’s experiences. David Alexander and Captain Tollman, both incredibly pivotal characters, are both developed to full capacity. Through Anson’s eyes, we see Alexander and Tollman exuding personality traits that showcase the good and evil they represent. The actions of the main characters, though not always predictable, always make sense.
The emotion and imagery expressed in the author’s writing style were by far the most enjoyable aspects of the novel. It was easy to picture the war ridden fields and quaint French streets on which the story unfolds. Further, the use of foreshadowing by the narrator provides a sense of anticipation as well as an emotional awareness of impending ruin. Anson is a strong narrator with strong emotions that translate easily to the reader. For example, one pivotal scene halfway through the story finds Anson realizing how deeply he feels at home in the company of the other soldiers. Through Anson’s narration of this revelation, his sense of camaraderie and purpose emanated through the pages.
The only flaw worth mentioning is the overall pacing of the novel. The first half of the story progresses rather slowly; we are taken through the day to day life and feelings of a soldier. Though certain aspects of this storytelling were interesting and in some cases, compelling, the first half of the book tended to drag. It isn’t until the halfway point that any true notions of suspense occur. However, it is notable that the climactic events are all drawn together by events taking place earlier in the book and therefore, though the pacing could have been better, at least it did not feel like any sections of the book were pointless.
Despite the sometimes sluggish pacing of the novel, The Sins of Soldiers is an enjoyable and provocative read. The author foregoes overloading the reader with burdensome historical facts and focuses more on the human element. Therefore, I happily rate The Sins of Soldiers 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and general fiction.
The Sins of Soldiers
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